Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shucking and Silking

Today, the outside of my house looked like this

and inside of my house things looked like this

so I found it to be a perfect time to prep my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Growing up, one day a year (if we were lucky, sometimes it took 2 days) my family including my grandparents, aunts, uncles, my parents, my brothers and I would all gather at The Farm to harvest the corn my grandpa had grown in his football field-sized garden. This was a sacred time of year for me. We were all there, with one purpose, working together, each with our own job, to get something done that we'd all benefit from for a whole year. Grandpa and a few boys would go to the garden and pick the ready ears of corn, and in an assembly line-ish way, bring the corn to the other boys who would then shuck ear after ear of fresh, golden corn. Then those boys would send the corn over to the young girls who would "silk" the corn and make sure none of that hairy stuff was left on the corn! The girls would then send the corn to my dad and my Uncle Gary who would boil the corn in a huge pot of boiling water, and then immediately give the corn a cold bath in an ice-cold trough full of water. Then one lucky kid (who didn't have to shuck or silk) got to wheel the blanched corn to the garage where Mom, Aunt Lena, and Grandma sat, patiently waiting. This was perhaps the most sacred part of all for me. Three of my women-heroes sat, wearing old, worn, used, aprons, chatting about the ins and outs of their days, the town, the gospel, and anything else. Grandma would get after us kids if the ears weren't silked enough and she'd get after her girls if they weren't milking the cobs hard enough. One year she took over the milking and if I remember correctly, used a cheese-grater to get every last drop of milk out of those cobs. I think the cheese-grater became a tradition. It was always my hope and dream to be big and old enough to get to cut the corn off the cob, and dare I even imagine being the one to milk the cob. I would have given ANYTHING. Ultimately, all that corn from the garden was bagged and frozen, to be enjoyed year 'round. And the day when most of that corn was consumed? Thanksgiving for sure. Well, besides one Thanksgiving while in college, this is my first Thanksgiving not spent with any of our family, and I was feeling homesick for family, and for corn. So all morning I spent trying to reenact the Sherwood corn harvest in my own kitchen. I laughed at myself, I cried. I cried missing my Grandma. I cried over the smell and what the smell of cooked corn coming off the cob represents to me. And in the end, I came out with a meager amount of corn to be served on Thursday, but that corn will mean more to me than anybody else at the table, and hopefully it will make me feel a little closer to home. Today, I am thankful for family, for memories, for traditions, and for corn.

Shucking and silking.

Waiting for the water to boil, then throwing the corn in the pot.

Bringing the corn back to a boil and then giving it a cold bath.

Cutting the corn off the cob and milking every last drop from each ear.

The finished product.

Happy Tuesday.